What to do in January: the UK for winter visitors and students
4 January 2017

Winter can be one of the nicest times to visit the UK or study here. There are plenty of festivals and events, and it can be a beautiful time of year to spend time in the countryside or shopping under the festive lights. And even if there's nothing happening, our pubs and restaurants are warm and friendly, with open fires, warm drinks and good food.

Festivals and events in January

The Haxey Hood in Lincolnshire on 6 January is like a huge football match where players try to get a leather hood into one of four local pubs. The game can go on for hours - it ends when the hood is safely inside one of the pubs, where it stays for the next year.

At Whittlesea Straw Bear Festival, you will find dances, concerts and a procession through the streets of Whittlesea from 13-15 January, with traditional English Morris dancers and a man dressed up inside a bear costume made of straw. On Sunday, the bear costume is burned.

Chepstow Wassail Mari is an ancient Welsh New Year celebration that takes place in Chepstow on 21 January, including dancing, performances, mock battles and more.

You will need to be in the Shetland Islands off Scotland in January to see the Up Helly Aa festival, which involves parades through Lerwick with burning torches, before setting fire to replica of a Viking longboat. The 2017 Up Helly Aa day is on 31 January.

Get into the countryside

Winter sports in Scotland

It gets properly snowy in Scotland: it is the only UK nation with a ski resort. But you can also do more unusual winter sports there.

How about climbing an ice wall? You can learn how to do this at The Ice Factor in Lochaber, which is less than three hours' drive from Glasgow. You can also do snow walking with snowshoes through Mains of Taymouth or C-N-Do Scotland. You can even sleep in your own ice hole by taking a trip with Scot Mountain Holidays.

Finally, if you've ever watched the Winter Olympics you'll have seen the sport of curling. This is like a game of bowls on the ice, with players sweeping the rink to make sure the curling stone ends up in the right place. You can try curling at some clubs in Scotland and a few in England.

People in Northern Ireland say winter is a good time to try landsailing on some of the huge beaches here, because it's much quieter than usual.

Enjoy a winter walk

It can be really pretty in the UK in winter, especially on a clear bright day.

If you want to see snow as you walk, you'll need to go for the North of England or Scotland: there is usually snow on the mountain tops in the Lake District or Scotland or Wales which is visible from many paths.

Otherwise, there are many lovely walks in the countryside, and lots of people like to have lunch or end up in the pub where there is often a warming fire. If you are looking for somewhere to walk, the National Trust cares for lots of the UK countryside and is a good place to start. UK winter walks can be wet and muddy so good shoes or rubber boots are a good idea.


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